With village-based films such as Kadaikutty Singam and Sandakozhi 2 doing well at the box office, Cinema Express discusses the evolution of this genre with filmmakers
Speaking about everything from family honour to festivals, Sandakozhi 2, which was released last week, made its way into the list of other rural-centric films of this year which got a good reception from the audience. Films such as Mannar Vagaiyara, Madura Veeran, Semma, and the much celebrated Kadaikutty Singam, all received good reviews and set the cash registers ringing. Tamil cinema has a long tradition of rural subjects, and with films like Kalavani 2 and Kumki 2 lined up for the rest of this year, it’s clear that village-based stories have not gone out of trend. Here’s what some directors known for choosing the fertile sands of our villages rather than the blazing tarmacs of the city as the backdrop for their films, have to say about the gratification of doing such films.
(Director of Thenmerku Paruvakaatru, Neerparavai, Dharma Durai)
A while back, how well a film did in villages was the deciding factor for a film’s success. Now that producers have moved to the city, films have become a four-day business — from Friday to Monday. And now, the four or five major cities and towns with multiplexes have become the deciding factor. This translates into the urban backdrop being chosen more often. I wouldn’t classify films as urban or rural. I’d call them regional and more regional.
Rural films are a window into the different cultures and traditions, which vary from village to village, let alone districts. The conventions, emotions, and even the feudal values are more in villages compared to the cities. But this doesn’t mean urban films don’t have emotions in them. That’s why I prefer to view them as regional and more regional films.
(Director of En Rasavin Manasile, Solaiyamma, Ettupatti Rasa)
Village films are not important to Tamil film industry alone but for Tamil society as a whole. These stories are the true slice of a Tamilian’s life. Village films are a shout out to our culture and tradition. I never construct sets for my films. If I want to shoot a cooking scene, I’ll choose a random house and shoot it inside that kitchen. Periya anda vechu keppakazhi kadaiya mudiyathu. In En Rasavin Manasile, we talk about how a Tamilian wears a veshti — that’s the true essence of a village film. In a rural subject, a sickle can be used for many reasons, but in an urban film, it’s only for action. Violence in rural films has a justification. If you take films based on relationships, a city-centric film will only need the lead pair, but a village film will also look at both their families. With people leaving villages to go abroad these days, they prefer seeing films based on their current lifestyles. What they don’t realise is that their souls are still rooted in our soil. Dhanush’s passport will still read Dhanush K Raja even if he goes to Hollywood. Similarly, village films are our identity.
(Director of Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam, Rajini Murugan, Seema Raja)
We all came to the city from villages, so we’re able to intricately showcase a scene if it’s a rural film. Almost 75 per cent of those in Chennai are from outside the city, so they love to watch village-based films. Rajini sir and Vijayakanth sir used to do a lot of such films. All the actors these days have done rural films to address the B and C centres, though some are hesitant to do them often because they don’t want to get typecast. Producers too prefer rural scripts as the overall expense is considerably less. Getting permission to shoot inside the city is tough, and it can cost anywhere between `50,000 to `3,00,000. There’s also a lot of disturbance if shooting in the city. We can control the environment better when we shoot in villages. Village films used to be the trend back in the day, and now, I think there’s a good mix. If everyone keeps making the same kind of films, naange enna panrathu? (laughs)
(Director of Karagattakaran, Enga Ooru Pattukaran, Kozhi Koovuthu)
The pleasure of making a film set in a village is incomparable. Instead of focusing on action and violence, I’ve always stuck to the softer emotions which are at the heart of life in villages. We lived in the villages, and so were able to bring in a lot of authenticity to the scenes we added to our films.
As caste-based violence has started to make headlines, more films are made with that as the core subject. But something like Thaikkupin Tharam (1956), which spoke about families, is the kind of cinema we should be making. I like the stories coming out today based in a rural backdrop, but I can’t relate to the way they’re shot. Take the way they grandly show a thiruvizha, for example. I find it to be too cinematic. I prefer films that are closer to reality. I enjoyed Merku Thodarchi Malai. Well-established actors should do more such films.
(Director of Kalavani, Vaagai Sooda Vaa, Chandi Veeran)
Not just for Tamil films, every region’s films across the world (mann sarndha padangal) are important. For example, if we want to know the way of living, dressing sense, the way they conversed, and so on, of those who lived in the 70s, we don’t have any government records for it. But a film such as 16 Vayathinile (1977) will give you a glimpse of it. Though urban subjects also do this to an extent, village films are what truly reflect the lives of our people. For example, in Vaagai Sooda Vaa, we showed mudskipper fish climbing up a tree. That’s something the rest of the world won’t know; it’s something unique to us.
The number of stories from rural scripts is phenomenal, thanks to the kind of people one can encounter in villages. Bharathiraaja sir has documented this in his films well. Showing our culture is what will make our films stand apart in the international stage. What’s the point of copying from Hollywood films and calling them world-class films? We sent Barfi! as India’s official entry for the Oscars, but it’s inspired from Charlie Chaplin films. How can we expect them to give us an Oscar for that? Village films, if sent to festivals, will bring us due recognition.